The massive pageant in Tian An Men Square in Peking earlier this week graphically underscores the self-confidence and optimism of China's current political leadership - and indeed, the nation itself.
Forget for a moment the festivities - the floats and banners, the brightly colored dragons, the marching bands, the displays of new weapons. All that was visually impressive, as befits a highly centralized state. But what was perhaps most interesting about the celebrations marking the 35th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 was the very size and upbeat mood of the crowd itself - a gathering estimated at some half million people.
In other words, an assembly about the same size as populations of such major cities as Boston, Brisbane, or Lyon.
That China's ruling leadership felt comfortable enough about allowing such a vast outpouring of humanity - without any fear of the turbulent street demonstrations and crowd frenzy that occurred when China was torn apart by the Cultural Revolution of the mid-through-late 1960s - is itself a remarkable commentary on the governmental stability now found in the world's most populous nation.
China's pragmatic leadership has much to be jubilant about these days. The modernization program is well under way. Firms from all over the globe are eager to get a foothold on the mainland as part of a joint-venture program. Turnstiles at airports and docksides are spinning as scores of Chinese travel abroad for study and business contacts and large numbers of visitors from other nations come to China.
Two-way trade with the United States alone is expected to reach $5.8 billion this year, up from $4.4 billion last year.
And politically the government of Deng Xiaoping is basking in the public glow over the new accords with London, returning Hong Kong to Chinese control in the year 1997. Little wonder that Mr. Deng renewed the calls for reunification with Taiwan in his National Day speech.
All this, of course, is not to suggest that China's communist leaders do not have major problems. They do, ranging from continuing rivalry with their powerful Soviet neighbor to the need to more-swiftly modernize their own bureaucracy. But that said, for now at least, China is enjoying a period of remarkable political stability that is ensuring a larger sense of regional stability for East Asia in general.
That sense of stability stands as quite a contrast to the long years of conflict that marked East Asia during so much of this century.